Top 10 Halloween Musicians

Whether you’re planning a Halloween party, just a friendly get together, or simply staying at home by yourself, it helps to have some tunes to set the mood for the season. Now, you might think that it’s a little early to be in full-on Halloween mode all the time, but personally I find that having some spooky songs playing in the background helps me stay in the Halloween spirit, which is essential when writing all these reviews.

It’s not too hard to find some appropriate Halloween songs. Lots of artists have put out music that is appropriate to the season. Some of it’s spooky and some of it’s silly. Some of it’s explicitly meant for Halloween and some of it just happens to fit in comfortably. But a lot of dedicated Halloween songs are one-hit wonders, singles released and never expanded to an album, or given a follow-up. So here, with video accompaniment (sort of), is a top ten list of artists who provide at least a couple different options for your Halloween mix tape. (Those still exist, right? My musical tastes expired in 1989.)

#10: The Alan Parsons Project

The Alan Parsons Project was a progressive rock group founded and named after its keyboardist, who had been assistant engineer on a few Beatles albums. The group makes it onto the list by virtue of its debut album, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which was heavily inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe. There are songs dedicated to The Cask of Amontillado, Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, and an entire suite of songs about The Fall of the House of Usher. These are moody experimental pieces and can help set a subtle mood for Halloween.

Signature Halloween Song:

My pick for the best song on the album is also inspired by the Poe title people are most likely to recognize: “The Raven”.

#9: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Cassandra Peterson is best known for hosting movies, and not so much for her own performances (though she has those as well). Her albums reflect this, mostly being compilations of some of those one-hit Halloween wonders mentioned above. But each album usually has at least one track that has Elvira singing herself. These include “Haunted House”, “Zombie Stomp”, “Full Moon”, and her tribute to Frankenstein’s mistress, “Here Comes the Bride”. Obviously, these are very tongue-in-cheek, like all of Elvira’s act.

Signature Halloween Song:

Her tribute to everything Halloween, “Monsta Rap”. Yes, it’s cheesy. But this is Halloween. If we can’t be cheesy now, when can we be?

#8: Oingo Boingo

Danny Elfman has become known for providing soundtracks in recent decades, and has certainly provided some excellent Halloween fodder on that front, with the theme to Tales from the Crypt and the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas on his resume. But even when he had his band Oingo Boingo, he was cranking out songs appropriate for the pumpkin season (and which were also on soundtracks). There’s the zombie-themed “Dead or Alive”, and of course the album Dead Man’s Party provides some familiar selections, with the title track to Weird Science (for those who like their October with mad scientists) and “No One Lives Forever”, featured in both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Casper: A Spirited Beginning.

Signature Halloween Song:

Only one choice it can be, right? Here’s the album’s title track, “Dead Man’s Party”.

#7: Helloween

With a name like Helloween, you’d have to expect this metal group to have at least a couple songs that fit the theme, right? They may not have a lot, but with “Metal Invaders” and “Dr. Stein” they provide a few alternate choices — and what they lack in number, the band makes up for in length, with their 13-minute rock epic “Halloween”.

Signature Halloween Song:

MTV wasn’t about to play a 13-minute video, so they had to trim it down to five. It still works though.

#6: Creedence Clearwater Revival

A group of Californian self-described “swamp rockers” may not seem like the ideal Halloween band, but they contribute several songs that deliver a sense of the eerie and odd, helped by John Fogerty’s rough voice. Possible selections include “Walk on the Water”, “Tombstone Shadow”, “Run Through the Jungle”, and their cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You”. You can also go a bit further afield, go for Fogerty’s solo career, and throw in “Premonition”.

Signature Halloween Song:

Everybody knows this one. Just remember that there isn’t a bathroom on the right.

#5: Metallica

Perhaps the biggest name in metal, Metallica certainly has some songs to contribute to the cause. There are mood-setters such as “One” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. There are songs which are more overt yet in their dark themes, such as “All Nightmare Long” or “Where the Wild Things Are”. Plus there’s the Lovecraftian association with the instrumental “The Call of Ktulu”. They may not spell out “Halloween” or “monsters” very often, but Metallica provides a lot of great non-specific songs to fill out the spaces in your Halloween mix.

Signature Halloween Song:

Perhaps their most popular song, “Enter Sandman” is also one of the best for Halloween.

#4: Ozzy Osbourne

The self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness” has been making scary music since before it was popular, and it’s not hard to find songs of his that fit. “Mr. Crowley”, “Diary of a Madman”, “Zombie Stomp” (which appears to be a curiously popular title for zombie songs)… he gives us some options, especially if we delve into his Black Sabbath days. “Iron Man” may not be a classic monster, but I doubt it would raise any complaints. There’s also his turn as a guest-vocalist on Slash’s self-titled album with the track “Crucify the Dead”.

Signature Halloween Song:

Here’s one for the lycanthropes: Osbourne’s “Bark at the Moon”.

#3: Van Helsing’s Curse

Here’s one I’ve mentioned before. Some of these bands do songs which are appropriate for Halloween, and some do songs that are specifically meant for Halloween. Here’s an entire band which was created for Halloween. A personal project by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, Van Helsing’s Curse is a symphonic metal group formed specifically because Snider felt there wasn’t enough Halloween rock out there. Every song on their album Oculus Infernum is perfect for the season.

Signature Halloween Song:
We’ll go with the first full song from the album, “Tubular Hell”.

#2: Blue Öyster Cult

Blue Öyster Cult may be the biggest band that everybody knows exactly one song from. Everybody knows “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, and perhaps a few of them know “Godzilla” (which has yet to be used in any actual Godzilla movie) or “Burning For You”. That song isn’t really a Halloween song, but aside from some of their early pop ventures, it’s something of an exception. Because BOC provides tons of songs that work for Halloween. There are songs which evoke a spooky feeling through their melodies, such as “Screams”, “After Dark”, “I am the One You Warned Me Of” or “Sole Survivor”. Songs which reference H.P. Lovecraft, such as “E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)”, and others that seem like they were dreamed up by Lovecraft, such as “Harvester of Eyes”. There’s even “Joan Crawford”, about the eponymous crazy actress rising from the grave to terrorize people. And this is just the tip of the iceberg here. Song selections from Blue Öyster Cult could make up a few hours all by themselves.

Signature Halloween Song:
“Don’t Fear the Reaper” would be the popular choice here, and it’s not a bad one by any stretch. But I’m going to go with something more obscure, “The Siege and Investiture of Baron von Frankenstein’s Castle at Wisseria”. Big title. Great song.

#1: Alice Cooper

If there is any artist who exemplifies Halloween, it’s Alice Cooper. Some of these guys have a song or two that fit. Some have an album. Alice Cooper has multiple albums. Not even just one or two, there are several, from Welcome to My Nightmare and its sequel, to Alice Cooper Goes to Hell, The Last Temptation, even Along Came a Spider if you want to throw the slasher movie motif into things. And then there are the individual tracks on some of the other albums that can be thrown in as well. “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, off Constrictor, is a song about Jason Vorhees, from Friday the 13th. A certain doctor’s monster is referenced in both “Teenage Frankenstein” and “Feed My Frankenstein”. “Zombie Dance” sets an eerie mood for any dance floor. He even has a Halloween-specific track, with the iTunes-exclusive single, “Keepin’ Halloween Alive”, which so far isn’t available on any albums.

Signature Halloween Songs:

For Alice, let’s finish this off with two choices. First, since most people won’t have had a chance to hear it, “Keepin’ Halloween Alive”, from 2009.

And here, the classic “Welcome to My Nightmare”. On The Muppet Show, because why not?

And there we have it, ten musicians whose work is best suited to Halloween. Is there anybody I left out? Please let me know in the comments, my Halloween mix could always use extending. But since I’m sure someone will ask, no I didn’t “forget” Marilyn Manson. I left him off deliberately as I find him to be a pale imitation of other acts; everything he does, someone else has done better… either stylistically (Alice Cooper) or sometimes with the exact same song (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and CCR.)

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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11 Responses to Top 10 Halloween Musicians

  1. This was great, thoroughly enjoyed it! I must admit, I did half expect to see Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells on there! You could also probably go to town with awful metal bands such as Cradle of Filth etc, but there’s no originality in that whatsoever! Glad to see some Metallica on there though 🙂

    • Thank you Chris! “Tubular Bells” really does lend itself to the season, doesn’t it? And yeah, it would be easy to expand this out with all sorts of obscure bands that had just one song that would work.

  2. le0pard13 says:

    Wonderful music post, Morgan. Love this.

  3. Great stuff!
    I would have added GWAR and Misfits to the list as well 😉

  4. S says:

    This is a fine list and any amendments would be subjective of course. However I certainly would include Black Sabbath though Ozzy may suffice through transitive property as he was part of the original group.

    CCR’s Bad Moon Rising (part of American Werewolf in London) tops my list though Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon makes honorable mention for me. Enjoying the festive theme this month. Great post. 😉

    • I waffled on Sabbath/Ozzy for quite a while. I eventually went with Ozzy, throwing Black Sabbath in by reference, since he seems to have more appropriate songs in his solo career.

      “Bad Moon Rising” is way up there for me as well. In fact, it’s one of the first songs I ever really thought of as a “Halloween song”, thanks to an old Disney DTV special. And if I were just picking songs and not artists for this list, “Werewolves of London” would have made the list for sure. Hoooowl!

  5. Eric says:

    Fun picks, Morgan. I’m just glad you didn’t include “Monster Mash.” I can’t stand that song. 😀

    Another good one for this list: White Zombie.

    • Was never a big fan of White Zombie personally, but it’s all right in small doses.

      With “Monster Mash”, I know it’s a cliche, and a lot of people don’t like it, but the main reason it’s not on here is that it’s the only song Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers had that fits. Well, “Monster’s Holiday”, too, but that’s more of a Christmas song.

  6. Pingback: Halloween Haunters 2012 Roundup | Morgan on Media

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